Dan Bogler

Avatar has been declared the “future of movies” and it may be – though perhaps not quite in the way Hollywood thinks. Barely a month after launch it has generated more than $2bn in ticket sales, becoming the top-grossing film of all time. Its popularity is almost entirely down to the amazing 3-D special effects rather than a compelling plot or a roster of bankable stars, since it has neither of those. Is this the point where, once-and-for-all, technology overtakes talent as the driver of box office success? Pixar’s animated features, after all, have already shown the way. And since technology tends to get cheaper every year, while movie stars don’t, perhaps this signals a shift in the industry that puts power and profits back into the hands of the studios. This is not true of Avatar itself, of course. Reputedly, director James Cameron stands to make even more ($400m) than News Corp’s Fox ($300m), as shown in yesterday’s results. But as 3-D effects become commonplace, studio’s won’t need a James Cameron behind the camera every time.

John Gapper

Good luck to the search committee of General Motors in finding a new chief executive.

The abrupt departure of Fritz Henderson from the job this afternoon under pressure from Ed Whitacre, GM’s chairman (and temporary replacement as chief executive) leaves the company looking for someone to take his place. Read more

John Gapper

The Companies & Markets section of the US edition of the FT has the following headlines today:

Apple leaps ahead with 47 per cent surge in profits Read more

John Gapper

I went to see Bolt, the new Walt Disney film, this weekend (along with my target audience). I watched it in 3D with the help of a pair of Elvis Costello-like spectacles given out at the door.

Bolt is one of the new wave of 3D films now pouring out of Hollywood in an effort to give the technology another chance. The 3D films of the 1950s initially caused great enthusiasm and talk of a revolution but the excitement fadedRead more

John Gapper

I was reminded the other day that it currently costs £13 to enter Kew Gardens as a visitor. Since I grew up in Kew, I happen to be an expert on the history of the entrance fee to Kew Gardens and it is mind-bogglingly high compared with the past.

Forgive the middle-aged reminiscence but, when I was a child, it cost three pence (yes, a thrupenny bit)  to get into Kew Gardens. Upon decimalisation in February 1971, they put the price down to one new penny, or 2.4 old pence. Read more

John Gapper


My FT column this week is on the London premiere of Sex and the City and what it, and the show, says about the future of film and television. You can read it here and comment below.

John Gapper

Further to the Eliot Spitzer scandal, I recommend to readers the comment left on my earlier post by Ava Xi’an. It starts as follows:

As a highly-paid escort in New York City, I have to say that I’m completely unsurprised by the events that have unfolded the past few days. I am curious, though, as to how it will affect my industry in the coming few months (the Empire Club was one of the top 5 “VIP” agencies in the tri-state area). Read more

John Gapper

Reading the federal complaint against the prostitution ring in which Eliot Spitzer, the New York state governor, apparently became caught up is an insight into how even this sort of business is just that – a business.

The Emperors Club VIP was clearly at the top end of prostitution enterprises. It operated across borders – in Paris and London as well as in US cities – and it was very expensive. Clients had to pay between $1,000 and $5,500 per hour for its services.

Like other service businesses, it had a loyalty club for the most elite clients who paid even more than $5,500 per hour, known as the Icon Club. It allowed some clients to “buy out” their favourite prostitutes, permitting the men direct access to the women without going through the Emperors Club.

The 47-page complaint shows the Emperors Club also faced many operating challenges. The federal wiretaps of conversations show the organisers facing problems such as having too few prostitutes for the demand from clients in one city and having to hassle clients to pay bills. Read more